Solomon Builds the Temple: June 19th 2021

1 Kings 6:1-7:22

Solomon started to build the temple of the Lord, four hundred and eighty years after the Israelites had come out of Egypt (1 Kings 6:1).

The temple was built on Mount Moriah – the same hill where Abraham had almost sacrificed his son Isaac (2 Chronicles 3:1). This was also where Solomon’s father, King David, had bought the threshing-floor of Araunah and built an altar after the angel bringing the plague to Israel had been ordered to stop there by God (2 Sam.24:16). The rock where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac is reputed to be the cornerstone of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Underneath it is the Well of Souls, the drainage system for the blood that flowed from the sacrifices in the temple. There is a legend that at this place the spirits of the dead can be heard awaiting Judgement Day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Well_of_Souls.

There was no hammering on site – presumably out of reverence to God. When we first meet in church, we loudly praise and worship God – this is in preparation to meet God. Eventually, a palpable calm and quiet will descend on the congregation when God comes into the room. That is the time to start praying. The temple stones were prepared offsite, leaving the building site relatively calm and quiet in preparation to meet the presence of God.  

God promised that if Solomon kept all His decrees, regulations and commands then He would live among the Israelites and not abandon them (1 Kings 6:12-13). God did not say he would live solely in the temple, he would live among the Israelites, just as Jesus lived among the Jews during his lifetime.

Solomon made an inner sanctuary – the Most Holy Place – to house the ark of the covenant. The whole interior of the temple was overlaid with gold. The temple was meant to be a continuation of the tabernacle, which had served for over four hundred years. It was the same design, only twice as big.

Solomon had cherubim, palm trees and open flowers carved and overlaid with gold. These symbols were reminiscent of the garden of Eden. The magnificent temple was finished in seven years. An incredible undertaking involving hundreds of thousands of men.

Solomon then constructed his temple including the Hall of Justice, where he was to judge.

King Solomon brought a Gentile craftsman from Tyre named Huram. He was highly skilled in bronze work. He made hundreds of bronze pomegranates and massive pillars at the portico of the temple. Jewish tradition is that the pomegranate represents righteousness because there are 613 seeds in a pomegranate, the same number of commandments and regulations that are in the Old Testament. Huram named the two pillars Jakin (meaning ‘He shall establish’)  and Boaz (meaning ‘In him is strength’).

There is a strong connection between the temple constructed by Solomon and Freemasonry, presumably because there were so many masons involved in building the temple and Solomon was a master architect.

Solomon was so learned and inquisitive that he delved into numerous subjects, including occult matters that should probably have remained hidden. He is reputed to have written several books of spells and incantations to summon and control demonic forces. He might just have done this out of academic curiosity, but curiosity can be dangerous. In Masonic lodges, they have models of the two temple pillars beside the master’s chair. It is ironic that this first temple was being built for priests to meet God on behalf of the people, yet, if you become a mason, you are automatically excommunicated from the Christian church, cutting yourself off from meeting God.

On a more positive note the tops of the pillars were decorated with lilies. Jesus linked lilies and Solomon together: ‘And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin (ESV)’ (Matt. 6:28). The NIV uses the word ‘flowers’ instead of lilies, unlike the majority of Bible translations

No matter how wise and wealthy Solomon became, he could never construct something as beautiful as a natural lily in a field. Lilies open themselves up and allow insects to take their sweet nectar from inside them. They live briefly during which they pass on sweet life to others. A lily is a beautiful flower representing self-sacrifice and service, a representation of true sacrificial Christianity, the true spirit of Christ.

Acts 13:13-41

In a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, Paul delivered a short history of the Israelites from the time of the Exodus. God removed Saul, Israel’s first king, and replaced him with David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Paul’s speech was similar to the one that Stephen delivered to the Sanhedrin, which provoked his martyrdom. Stephen’s speech and death must have made a lasting impression on Paul and he probably now repented of his approval and involvement in his death.

Paul proclaimed that Jesus was the Saviour, descended from David. He told the assembled Jews the good news, the message of salvation. Goad raised Jesus from the dead, his body did not decay (Acts 13:37). Through Jesus, those who believe receive forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ death makes us justified with God. We are no longer at war with God, we are at peace and living in a right relationship with our loving Father.

Paul warned the Jews not to be ‘scoffers’, filled with unbelief. We are still surrounded by scoffers today who will perish if they don’t repent. Even when countless people have told them the wonders of Jesus’ death and resurrection they still don’t believe.

The spirit of unbelief is thriving at the moment and not only with regards to religion. Many people, including Christians who are meant to be people of belief, refuse to believe the scientific facts about the deadly pandemic and spurn vaccination on entirely spurious grounds. Many people challenge God to protect them even though Jesus said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test (Matt.4:7). If we have problems accepting facts such as the life of Jesus, his miracles, signs, death and resurrection or the facts about coronavirus, we should pray to bind and cast out the spirit of unbelief.

Psalm 75:1-10

God judges uprightly and holds the pillars of the earth firm (Psalm 75:7).

We give thanks to God for ever and tell of his wonderful deeds.

We should never be arrogant and boast about our own deeds. We should only boast of what the Lord has done for us.

Image: Johnreve, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Ark Brought to Jerusalem / The Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost: June 4th 2021

2 Samuel 5:6-6:23

David attacked the Jebusites and captured Jerusalem. He took up residence there and called it ‘the city of David’ (2 Sam. 5:9).

David built up the area around Jerusalem and became more and more powerful because ‘the Lord God Almighty’ was with him (2 Sam. 5:10). Hiram, king of Tyre, sent craftspeople to build a palace for David. David felt secure in his reign (2 Sam. 5:12).

The Philistines came to attack David and he enquired of the Lord whether they would be handed over to him (2 Sam.5:19). David defeated them with the help of God: (2 Sam 5:20). The Philistines abandoned their useless idols and David and his men carried them off – hopefully to be safely disposed of.

The Philistines came for war again and this time the Lord gave David a battle strategy (2 Sam. 5:23). The Lord sent what presumably were legions of angels marching in the tops of the balsam trees to strike the Philistine army ahead of David’s troops. Due to David’s obeying God’s plan, he was successful (2 Sam. 5:25).

David set out to retrieve the ark of the Covenant (2 Sam. 6:2). It was still a dangerous object, to be treated with reverence. One man reached out to steady it when the oxen pulling it on a cart stumbled and he was struck down dead (2 Sam. 6:6-7). David was then too frightened to take the ark to Jerusalem and so stored it for three months in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. His house was so blessed by the ark’s presence that David tried again to move it (2 Sam. 6:12).

As the ark travelled, David danced before it with all his might (2 Sam. 6:14-15). His first wife, Michal daughter of Saul, despised David in her heart for dancing in such a vulgar and undignified way (2 Sam. 6:20). There is always a family member ready to put a damper on any celebration. David was unrepentant and vowed to be even more undignified in the future. He knew that God had chosen him rather than Michal’s father, Saul, to be king (2 Sam. 6:21-22). God liked the way that David behaved. Michal had no children all her life to ensure that none of Saul’s descendants would gain the throne.

David sacrificed to the Lord and generously gave food to all the Israelites (2 Sam. 6:19). When we rejoice and celebrate out of our love of God, it gives us the desire to be generous and hospitable.

Acts 1:23-2:21

The disciples prayed, cast lots and chose Matthias to be added to the eleven disciples. There had to be twelve apostles at the birth of the church as there were twelve tribes of Israel.

Pentecost was a traditional Jewish feast, fifty days after Passover but this year it became the birthday of the Christian church. A sound like a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where the disciples had gathered. What seemed to be tongues of fire separated and came to rest on each of the disciples. All were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other languages (Acts 2:2-4).

Speaking in other tongues / languages is a supernatural gift that all Christians can pray for today. It is the initial gift of power unlocking all the other gifts of the Spirit. It often comes when adults are baptized by Pentecostal Christians, because they are obedient to the Spirit and faithfully pray for his gifts to be unlocked. It is a marvellous gift and everyone should desire it as it brings wonderful benefits. It builds us up internally. It edifies us to be a powerful soldier for Christ. To receive this gift we have to believe, be baptized, and faithfully ask the Spirit to give us this gift. God will not refuse to give good gifts to his children. We are always in total control of this gift and can start it / stop it whenever we like. I feel that it is like a broadband prayer connection to God, instead of trying to communicate with him via a faltering dial-up connection. In my heart, I can feel the Holy Spirit broadcasting prayer to God twenty-four hours a day – to pray in tongues I just have to open my mouth and start to move my vocal chords, giving the Spirit permission to vocalise my prayers. It is extremely powerful. The more we pray in tongues, the more the Holy Spirit will be able to mould us, change us, sanctify us, through us the Holy Spirit speaks the perfect prayer to God.

The Holy Spirit also helps us pray when we don’t know what to say. He will pray the perfect prayer whatever the circumstances and, when we pray in tongues over other people, he will discern the prayer that they need and speak it through us. It is a powerful spiritual weapon used for delivering ourselves and others from evil and for healing.

The more we pray in tongues, the more other gifts will be unlocked. I love to sing in tongues as well. The Holy Spirit will give me a new praise or worship song each day, which I sing aloud as I take my dog for it’s daily walk. I love to record these on my phone and play them later on a keyboard as these are new tunes – written by God. I have never composed music before so I find it delightful that the Holy Spirit uses me to do this. The next gift we might receive is the ‘interpretation of tongues’. This allows us or the people around us to translate tongue languages into our native language. Tongue languages can be supernatural languages – used in heaven or by angels – or it could be one of the seven thousand earthly languages used around the world. My pastor prayed for a lady in Pakistan to receive the gift of tongues and she started speaking in perfect English, even though she had never been taught any.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave all the ‘God-fearing ‘Jews’ who could hear the apostles in Jerusalem the gift of interpreting tongues as they were all able to understand them in their own native language. ‘We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’ (Acts 2:11-12). God loves it when we declare his wonders, particularly the wonder of how he rescued the Israelites from the Egyptians and he will bless us greatly as a result. Pentecost reversed Babel, when God made life more difficult by creating different languages (Gen. 11:1-9). Now, people could understand visitors from foreign lands making it much easier to spread the gospel.

Some people made fun of the apostles (Acts 2:13) and said they were drunk. Two thousand years later there are many people – even so-called Christians – who will make fun of this supernatural gift. Some Christians seem to regard their religion as just an academic exercise, they don’t expect to see someone demonstrate supernatural abilities or for prayers to actually achieve anything but it is they who are missing out. Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we will never make much progress in our journey towards God.

After the Holy Spirit descended on Peter, he instantly became a powerful and persuasive preacher and quoted from the prophet Joel (Acts 2:17-21). God will pour out his Spirit on all people in the last days. He has poured it out on thousands of people from all denominations over the last few decades giving them supernatural charismatic gifts. We can thus conclude that we are now in the end times. Young men will see visions and old men will dream dreams. I pray daily that elderly members of my family who have so far been resistant to God will experience such a dramatic, intense dream that it will instantly convert them. The evangelist, Ros Powell, wrote a beautiful article about how her atheist husband was converted through a dream: https://www.rospowell.com/my-old-man-dreamed-a-dream/

Through regularly practicing the gift of Tongues, the Spirit may then give other gifts such as a the gift of prophesy, which is far more useful in public if no-one present can interpret our tongue language.

The gift of tongues enables us to call out perfectly to the Lord through the intercession of the Holy Spirit. ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Acts 2:21).

Psalm 69:29-36

God loves praise and thanksgiving more than sacrifices (Psalm 69:30-31).

The Lord hears the needy and the poor. He has a special regard for prisoners. Prison can be a blessed place where people turn their lives around and can find God. Apostles, like Peter and Paul regarded prison as an opportunity to loudly praise and worship, write Godly letters that would change the world and convert other prisoners and guards. Wherever we find ourselves, we can loudly give thanks to God.

God brought the Jewish people back to their land to rebuild it (Psalm 69:35-36). He has gathered them from around the world as he will always be faithful to his covenants.

God will save us and protect us. Even we are in pain and distress, we know that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him’ (Romans 8:28).

Image: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jesus Anointed at Bethany: May 20th 2021

1 Samuel 5:1-7:17

The Philistines took the captured ark of the Covenant to the temple of their demonic deity, Dagon, in Ashdod. The next day, their statue of Dagon had fallen on its face. They put it back up, only for it to fall down the next night and smash into pieces. Dagon’s head and hands were broken off – showing the superiority of our one true God.

God brought devastation on the people of Ashdod and affected them with tumours. The Philistines moved the ark to Gath. Usually, people other than Levites are struck down dead for merely going near the ark and so God was allowing the Philistines to move it around, to fall into his trap and demonstrate his power. The city of Gath was thrown into panic and both young and old broke out in tumours (v.9). They then moved the ark to Ekron.

In Ekron, those who didn’t die were afflicted with tumours. All the Philistines wanted to send the ark back to Israel. After seven months with the ark they sent it back to Israel along with five gold tumours and five gold rats. This implies the tumours may have been a type of bubonic plague – spread by the fleas from an invasion of rats. There were five of them because five Philistine cities had been devastated by the presence of the ark.

The Philistines loaded the ark onto a new cart with two cows that had never been yoked. The Philistine diviners said that if the driverless cart went to the Israelite town of Beth Shemesh, this would confirm that the Lord had brought the disasters on them. The cows went straight for Beth Shemesh and the Israelites, harvesting wheat in their fields, were delighted to see the ark coming towards them. However, seventy of he villagers disrespected God by looking inside the ark and were struck down dead. They sent a message to the town of Kiriath Jearim and asked them to take it. The men of Kiriath Jearim finally gave the ark the respect it deserved, setting it up in the house of Abinadab and consecrating Eleazar his son to guard it (7:1).

These days, the ark of the Covenant is said to reside in a chapel in the Ethiopian city of Aksum, guarded by a single monk who, once appointed as the ark’s guardian, is never allowed to leave the chapel’s grounds. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/keepers-of-the-lost-ark-179998820/

The ark stayed at Kiriath Jearim for twenty years and the Israelites ‘mourned and sought after the Lord’ (7:2).

Samuel, the prophet, told them to rid themselves of all their demonic idols and commit themselves solely to the Lord. His prophesied with faith that the Lord would then deliver them from the Philistines. All of Israel assembled at Mizpah.

They ‘poured water before the Lord’, fasted and confessed they had sinned. Samuel was their leader (v.6). The Philistines came to attack them but Samuel told them not to stop praying to God while he offered a suckling lamb as a burnt sacrifice to God. As the Philistines drew near, the Lord threw them into panic with loud thunder and the Israelites were able to slaughter them (v.11). Samuel set up a stone as a memorial.

We have in this story familiar elements of communing with God. They used water as a symbol of washing away sin / rebirth. Samuel sacrificed a lamb – similar to the Passover lambs that had saved the Israelites in Egypt and prefigured Jesus, the holy lamb of God. Samuel set up a memorial stone and an altar in Ramah – the Israelites had set up stones and altars during their Exodus years to remember and worship the saving deeds of God.

Samuel was judge over Israel all the days of their life and during this time, the Israelites recaptured their towns from the Philistines.

John 11:45-12:11

‘Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him’ (v.45). If Mary (of Bethany) was indeed Mary Magdalene and also the sinful woman mentioned in Luke – these men may well have been ‘interesting’ characters. Converting a sinner, who has a lot of intimate connections to other sinners, can reap a great harvest.

The high priest, Caiaphas, prophesied that Jesus would die as one man to save the entire Jewish nation. So even someone plotting evil can be a mouthpiece for God. Thanks to the mercy of God, sacraments from priests who may be themselves living in grave sin are still valid. From that day, the chief priests and the Pharisees plotted to arrest and kill Jesus. They did not want to lose their power and control and be further subdued by the Romans. If Jesus went around raising everybody from the dead, people would have no choice but to believe in him. It is amazing that religious leaders can feel so envious and threatened by witnessing the truth and power of God. God can use evil people to bring about a greater good in the end. By allowing the Sanhedrin to arrest and kill Jesus, God would allow us into heaven because of the sacrifice of his precious son.

Jesus visited Bethany again – where Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived. Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair (12:3), just as she may have done in the house of Simon the Pharisee in Luke (7:37-38). At that earlier encounter, she had been weeping because of her many sins. This time, she anointed Jesus in anticipation of his burial. She would later accompany the other women to Jesus’ tomb expecting to anoint his dead body – only to experience the joy of his resurrection.

Judas was annoyed at this use of expensive perfume. He was a thief, like his father the devil. If they had sold the perfume, he would have helped himself to some of the proceeds. Jesus predicted that we would always have the poor among us, ‘but you will not always have me’ (v.8). We do still have the poor among us, principally because of greed and exploitation. There is no shortage of food and other resources, we just need to stop selfishly hoarding and share equitably. Jesus gave us permission to hold the occasional guilt-free party. Life is for joyous living as well as helping the needy.

The dramatic testimony of Lazarus, having been raised from the dead, was converting many people to Jesus and so, the chief priests made plans to kill him too. There are many legends about what might have subsequently happened to Lazarus. As Lazarus had died once and already seen life after death, he wouldn’t have been frightened by his second death. He would have known Jesus, his friend and saviour, would be there to rescue him from death once again and this time give him eternal life. One legend is that Lazarus, Martha and Mary were put into a leaking boat by the Jews at Jaffa but still miraculously landed safely in Cyprus. There Lazarus died peacefully after serving as bishop for 30 years. Later, his relics were transferred to Constantinople. https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/lazarus

Proverbs 12:18-27

The Lord delights in the truthful (v.22). God doesn’t like lying, foolishness or laziness.

He wants us to bring healing with our words, to be prudent, diligent, righteous and joyfully promote peace.

We can be weighed down with anxiety but kind support from others can cheer us up. Jesus will take away our burdens. One of my favourite passages is Matthew (11:28-30): ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’.

A yoke is a wooden beam that joins two oxen side by side when working in a field. Jesus is saying he will walk step by step with us throughout our life, teaching us, connected to us and doing the heavy lifting to give us rest.

Image: National Library of Wales, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jesus raises Lazarus from the Dead: May 19th 2021

1 Samuel 2:27-4:22

A prophet came to the priest, Eli, and delivered a devastating prophecy against him and his descendants because they had taken liberties during their priestly office and dishonoured the Lord. The Lord declared: ‘Those who honour me I will honour but those who despise me will be distained’ (v.30). This counters some people’s ‘once saved, always saved’ philosophy. If we start dishonouring the Lord and turn our back on him, he can take back his promises.

The prophet predicted that Eli’s two unfaithful sons would die on the same day. God would instead ‘raise up for him a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind’ (v.35).

A prophecy like this was a rare occurrence in those days: ‘the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions’ (v.1). Many people still think this is the case today. They mistakenly think that miracles, works of healing and speaking in tongues were just for the early church at Pentecost and no-one exhibits supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit these days. They are attending the wrong church. They need to find one where the gifts of the Spirit are demonstrated at every public gathering and bring the gifts the Spirit has blessed them with to bear fruit.

The Lord called Samuel at night, while he was lying down in the temple of the Lord at Shiloh, where the ark of the Covenant was. Sometimes we don’t recognise the voice of God. He can try to get his message across to us via multiple channels such as dreams, visions, other people, the internet or books. Sometimes, we need to go to our quiet place of prayer and say: ‘Speak Lord, for your servant is listening’ (v.10). I often pray to God that he makes it clearly obvious what I should do as I might not notice subtle hints. The Lord told Samuel what he was about to do to Eli’s family – because Eli had failed to restrain his contemptible sons. Samuel was reluctant to relay the message about God’s upcoming wrath to Eli but the old priest insisted on hearing it. Eli had already come to terms with his fate: ‘He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes’ (v.18). Eli could have tried to change God’s mind, as the people of Nineveh did in the book of Jonah by wearing sackcloth and repenting, but he probably couldn’t have persuaded his sons to change from their evil ways.

The Lord stayed with Samuel as he grew up and all Israel recognised him as a prophet of the Lord (v.20).

The Philistines fought against the Israelites and defeated them. Israel’s tribes were being run by ‘elders’ and they decided to bring the ark of the Covenant from Shiloh and take it into battle with them. (4:3). Eli’s two sons accompanied it. At first, the Philistine army was intimidated by the great shout from the Israelites that shook the ground as the ark entered the camp. However, the Philistines were determined not to be slaves of the Israelites and they girded their loins and fought. They thoroughly defeated Israel, killed Eli’s two sons and captured the ark of God. For the Israelites, this was a total disaster. God can sometimes give ‘ungodly people’ victories to teach his people a lesson.

When the ninety-eight-year-old, blind Eli was told about the loss of the ark, he fell backwards off his chair and died. His pregnant daughter-in-law then heard about Eli’s death and the death of her husband, went into premature labour, gave birth, and also died. The baby boy was called ‘Ichabod’ meaning ‘where is the glory?’ for ‘the Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured’ (v.22).

What a mess. All due to priests and their families not giving sufficient honour to God.

John 11:1-44

Lazarus was terminally ill. He was the brother of Mary and Martha. They were all beloved friends of Jesus. This Mary ‘was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair’ (v.2). John may have been referring to the event in Luke (7:36-38) when a woman ‘who lived a sinful life’ poured perfume on Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair, in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Mary (of Bethany) appears to do the same thing later in John’s gospel (John 12:3). Was Mary (of Bethany) the same sinful woman mentioned in Luke and she wiped Jesus’ feet on two separate occasions with her hair? According to Pope St. Gregory this lady may also be none other than Mary Magdalene: “She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary [of Bethany], we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark” (Homilies on the Gospels).

I like to believe in this connection: ‘St. Mary Magdalene, the repentant sinner, who found both forgiveness and friendship with our Lord, who stood faithfully at the foot of the cross, and who saw the risen Lord, is a powerful example for each believerhttps://catholicstraightanswers.com/who-was-mary-magdalene-was-she-a-prostitute-who-repented/

In the Eastern Orthodox church, Mary of Bethany is considered to be a different person from Mary Magdalene so you can take your pick as to which theory to believe. Jesus prophesied that Lazarus’s sickness would be for God’s glory (v.5). He did not rush off to heal Lazarus. He stayed where we was for two more days. Jesus finally headed off to see him despite the risk to his personal safety (the Jews had previously tried to stone him in Judea). Jesus knew he would be safe from all attacks and was determined to carry on working until the end (the ‘twelfth hour of daylight’ (11:9)) i.e. until the designated time and place for him to die.

Thomas bravely rallied the other disciples to travel with Jesus even though he thought it was a suicide mission (v.16).

By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead in the tomb for four days.

Jesus told Martha that he was ‘the resurrection and the life’ and ‘whoever lives and believes in me will never die’ (v.26).

Martha declared her belief and faith in Jesus, that he was ‘the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world’ (v.27). Her sister, Mary, was called to join them and Jesus wept when he saw her and her friends weeping.

Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb even though he would have been badly decomposing after four days. God loves a challenge. It would have been too easy to resurrect Lazarus immediately after he died. It was an even more spectacular miracle to reverse the process of decomposition, resurrect him and allow him to walk out of his own tomb.

Jesus said: ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go’ (v.44). We can walk out of our own tomb when we die with Jesus through our baptism. He resurrects us as a new creation, an adopted child of God clad in a spotless white robe, shining with eternal life. As baptized Christians we have all shed our grave clothes and been set free. We need not fear death as we have been granted eternal life. Through speaking in tongues, we demonstrate that the Holy Spirit, who raised both Lazarus and Jesus from the dead, lives within us and he will also give eternal life to our mortal bodies.

Psalm 64:1-10

King David asked God to hear him, to protect his life from threats and hide him from the wicked.

Evildoers conspired against him, shooting at him from ambush and hiding their cunning traps.

However, God will come to the rescue when we cry out to him. He will strike down the evildoers with arrows and bring them to ruin by turning their own tongues against them.

When the wicked are publicly humiliated and defeated, all mankind will fear the Lord and proclaim his works. We should all praise and rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in the shelter of his mighty wings.

Image: © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro

Crossing the Jordan / The Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ: 23rd April 2021

Joshua 3:1-5:12

Joshua was full of faith in his new role as leader. He told the Israelites to ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you (v.5).

The Lord told Joshua that the priests, carrying the ark of the covenant, should stand in the river Jordan. The river was in full flood – the worst time of the year to cross it. God loves a challenge. Joshua prophesied that the water flowing downstream in the river would ‘be cut off and stand up in a heap’ (v.13).

The water piled up ‘a great distance away, at a town called Adam’ (v.16). The priests carrying the ark of the covenant stood in the middle of the river bed, while all Israel passed by on dry ground. This shows how God can manipulate the elements just as Jesus walked on the water. Water has a very special role and significance in the church. The Israelites passed through the Red Sea to their new life away from slavery and this foreshadowed our freedom from sin when we are baptized in water. The Israelites were once again ‘baptized’ by walking through the Jordan – after a forty year sentence for disobedience. They were back on the right track being led by God. It was an auspicious new start. How did this miracle work? Did the holiness of the ark of the covenant repel the water? Water is a creature of God and can be affected by positive or negative spirits. God built his greatest mysteries on water. The church blesses water and priests can also exorcise it for use in baptisms, exorcisms etc. If water requires exorcism, it can obviously be affected by negative spirits: https://www.romancatholicman.com/exorcism-blessing-for-salt-and-water/

Exorcism and Blessing of Water

P: O water, creature of God, I exorcise you in the name of God the Father (+) Almighty, and in the name of Jesus (+) Christ His Son, our Lord, and in the power of the Holy (+) Spirit. I exorcise you so that you may put to flight all the power of the enemy, and be able to root out and supplant that enemy with his apostate angels, through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.

R: Amen.

Joshua appointed a man from each of the twelve tribes to pick up on their shoulders a stone from the middle of the Jordan and set them up as a memorial in their camp (at Gilgal). The Bible says ‘they are there to this day’ (v.9) but according to the internet, not many people know where they are. Maybe they have been submerged in mud from the flooding of the Jordan? https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/304063412312620676/

It must have been terrifying for the inhabitants of Jericho to see the major river next to their city dry up and watch 40,000 hostile fighting men marching towards them across the dry river bed. This awesome miracle made the hearts of all the Amorite and Canaanite kings sink and they ‘no longer had the courage to face the Israelites’ (5:1).

As soon as the priests, carrying the ark of the covenant, set their feet on dry land the river waters ‘returned to their place and ran in flood as before’ (v.18).

This one miracle from the Lord sealed Joshua’s reputation and the Israelites ‘revered him all the days of his life’ (v.14).

Most people would have had a joyous party to celebrate crossing the Jordan in this manner but the Lord was preparing the Israelites for battle. All the fighting men now had to be painfully circumcised to seal the covenant with God. None of the young men had been circumcised during the forty years the Israelites had been compelled to wander about in the desert, which shows how disobedient they had been. This was a clear breach of the Abrahamic covenant with God and I am surprised that Moses had let it happen as he was nearly killed by God at the start of his ministry for not insisting that his own son was circumcised. The whole nation had let standards slip over the previous forty years. Imagine if spies from Jericho had sneaked into the camp to see what the Jews were doing to be faced with 40,000 bloody, adult foreskins. Actually, 39,998 because Joshua and Caleb would have been circumcised before they left Egypt. This act made them renewed in the sight of God again, freed from the slavery of Egypt and delivered into the promised land. It signalled a new start for them.

Now that the Jews had been circumcised, they were able to celebrate the Passover. The day after they ate some of the produce from the promised land, their daily supplies manna stopped raining down from heaven. After forty long years of directly supplying their food, God had brought them into the promised land, a land overflowing with milk and honey, and it was now up to the Israelites to subdue it and sustain themselves from it – with assistance from the mighty hand of God. As soon as the Israelites had a secure supply of food, God stopped feeding them. He didn’t want the Israelites becoming lazy. They now had wonderfully productive land and could support themselves. As soon as I had enough money to retire, God arranged for me to stop my secular job. I could have built up more in the bank – but I didn’t need it. He gave me exactly the right amount of money to lead a comfortable, healthy life but he didn’t give me excess riches to lead a lazy, ostentatious lifestyle. God doesn’t waste resources. Immediately, I had sufficient funds he diverted his money pipeline to someone else. Praise the Lord for his infinite wisdom.

Luke 22:1-38

Judas agreed to betray Jesus – the most notorious betrayal in history. There are many theories as to why he did this. Maybe Jesus had not turned out to be the military, violent leader that Judas had hoped for. He may have held the traditional view that the Messiah would arrive to kick the Romans out of Israel and had witnessed that Jesus didn’t match that stereotype. Maybe, Judas just loved money. Verse 3 says that ‘Satan entered Judas’ and that totally evil demonic presence whispering to him all day wouldn’t have helped. However, Judas could have simply turned to Jesus, the Chief Exorcist, for help. God always gives us sufficient grace to resist any temptation and Jesus never turned down a request for healing. Judas could have been forgiven, rescued and redeemed by Jesus but he chose not to be. It was prophesied that Jesus would die and God had planned this to happen to redeem us from our sins, but Judas had free will not to be the one that betrayed our Lord.

Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples in the upper room – the last supper. He gave thanks, broke the bread and gave it to them. This represents his holy body being broken on the cross for us all, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’ (v.19). The cup of wine was ‘the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you (v.20).

Jesus said, ‘I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world’ (John 5:51). The following text means a lot to Mother Church Christians: ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them (John 6:53-56).

This passage and others in John Gospel clearly back up the Catholic church’s claim that the bread and wine during the Holy Mass are taken up to heaven by the angel who is permanently stationed at the altar in a Catholic church and he brings back down from heaven the actual body and blood of Jesus for the faithful to eat. The bread and wine, which humans made on earth, become the holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is immense. In fact, we should really approach the church on our knees in trembling awe because some of Jesus’ actual body and blood is permanently stored in the tabernacle. I cross myself whenever I go past a Catholic church in respect. When I first became a confirmed Christian, I could feel the supernatural power coming from the body and blood. Sometimes, a consecrated wafer (the Holy Body) is displayed in a round circular glass case, a monstrance, which is ornately decorated and displayed on the altar. This is called ‘Veneration of the Blessed Sacrament’. In my early days as a new Christian, I could feel waves of radiation coming from the Blessed Sacrament throbbing against the temples of my head. However, I was still heavily demonised having just come out of forty years in the spiritual wilderness, which could have been a factor in this spiritual discernment. Often a possessed person can’t go into a church or eat the Blessed Sacrament, probably because they are terrified of the actual presence of Jesus within it.

The tragedy is that apart from Catholics, the main segment of society that believe that the actual body and blood is present in a Catholic church are witches and devil worshippers. To join many witchcraft covens, a person has to steal a consecrated wafer, the actual body of Jesus, and take it a Satanic ceremony for it to be abused / profaned. In olden days, the priest would place the body on your tongue and you would have to eat it in front of him. Now, in the days of hygiene, a priest will lay it on your hands and so it can be easily smuggled out of the church. This is a mortal sin – which will send a person to hell if they do not renounce and repent their actions before death.

The irony is that many Catholics, who piece by tiny piece consume the body and blood of Jesus and so, in theory, turn their body physically into Jesus’ body week by week often show very little life and enthusiasm when it comes to worship. Whereas Pentecostals, who use any bread and sacrilegiously use grape juice instead of wine are absolutely full of the Holy Spirit and brimming with life and good works. I cannot deny that my lovely Pentecostal brethren are born again, saved and in the queue for heaven. That’s why I hang around with them and try to take back some of their enthusiasm to the Catholics – so far with little success. This week, I tried to organise a six week Catholic course on Baptism in the Spirit, to activate the tiny dormant seed of the Holy Spirit that my Catholic brethren have received at baptism and done absolutely nothing with. I did not get a single subscriber to my totally free and professionally produced course. So if you belong to any denomination and want to know more about activating the gifts of the Spirit, contact me. Just as Gentile Jews were sent to make to the Jews jealous with their spiritual gifts, I think spirit-filled denominations like the Pentecostals are here to make the Catholics jealous. However, it it very difficult to get them to even listen to the message that there is more to eternal life than their standard miserable Lent-like, low-intensity worship. Many Catholics never access more than a tiny fraction of the spiritual power and life that they have privileged access to.

I became a Knight of Saint Michael a few years ago, which is a religious order with a specific aim of fighting the devil and his minions. One of the side benefits of being in this army, is that the angels take special care of you and accompany you en masse at specific times. Whenever I get up from my pew in a Catholic church to walk up to receive the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, I have an angel from each of the nine choirs accompanying me. Literally, I say, ‘Lets go, guys’ to the immensely powerful Seraphim, Cherubim, Throne, Dominion, Power, Virtue, Principality, Archangel and Angel who are with me. The angels must look on with awe as I eat Jesus’ Body and Blood. They would love to do it themselves. They must be totally shocked at how millions of Christians spurn the opportunity to do this through distrust and unbelief in their Mother Church.

Jesus chose to lay down his life, to die for us all. He knew Judas was about to betray him. Jesus could have saved himself and left the city. However, Jesus always submitted obediently to God’s plan for his life and death. We are justified and made righteous in God’s eyes through the precious blood sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Everyday, pray for Jesus’ precious blood to be poured out on you, your family, your fellow church members and everyone you know. It will bring healing, deliverance and faith.

Even at a wondrous occasion like this disagreements can take place. A dispute arose as to which disciple was the greatest (v.24). Jesus came to serve, not to be served.

Satan had asked to sift Simon Peter ‘as wheat’ (v.31). The most evil demon in existence knew precisely who Peter was and wanted to use all his powers to make him lose faith. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him three times but he prayed for him to recover without his faith failing, ‘And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers’ (v.32). Jesus and the Holy Spirit have highly effective prayers. God the Father listens to them above all others. Peter would go on to lead the fledgling church after its first birthday at Pentecost, becoming the first Pope. Peter could have resisted denying Jesus three times but he was weak. Supported by Jesus’ prayers, he recovered. Once the Holy Spirit entered him at Pentecost, he became supercharged in the faith – the rock on which the entire Christian church was built.

Jesus told the disciples to equip themselves with money, luggage and weapons. It was nearly time for him to depart and for the disciples to start spreading the gospel around the world. Jesus would always be with them but missionaries do need to make practical plans to support themselves.

Psalm 50:1-5

Everything in creation, from the rising of the sun to its setting, obeys predictable natural laws because of the word of God (v.1). He is our righteous judge and will gather us, the ‘consecrated ones’ (v.5) to him. He made a new covenant with us through the blood sacrifice of his precious only son, Jesus Christ.

God didn’t need the Israelites to sacrifice animals to him because every creature in the world belongs to him already, including us. He is not dependent on us but wants to be our most trusted friend and father. God likes us to honour him with our worship, praise and thanksgiving.

He particularly likes it when we recall how awesome he was rescuing the Israelites from Egypt and safely delivering them to the promised land.

If we make a vow to God, he wants us to fulfil it (v.14).

When we make God the centre of our life and worship him alone it is second nature to call on him when we are in trouble. He will deliver us and we will honour him (v.15).

Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/maundy-thursday-last-supper-6145303/

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